In a previous blog, I told you that the earliest sunset, the first milestone on the way to spring, already happens on December 12. The latest sunrise is two and a half weeks later, on December 30th. The graph below makes it clear: on that day in Rotterdam – and it won’t be much different elsewhere in the Netherlands – the sun won’t appear untill 8.50.
Sunrise at (almost) 9 AM ; that means that in January you do not have to get up extremely early to experience the blue and the golden hours. So every year I set the alarm clock a couple of times, to go into the city, after a quick shower, a sandwich and a cup of coffee. This year the weather forecasts were somewhat gloomy for a long time, so it wasn’t untill January 9th that I dared to make my first morning expedition.
Apart from the humane wake-up time, January mornings have another important bonus: during this time of the year, dawn more or less coincides with the rush hour. This results in additional special effects in the form of light trails.
And also, during the winter morning rush hours, the lights in both offices and homes is on, which certainly benefits the photos. I have never tried to verify the assumption, but I suspect that on 21 June, when the sun rises at 5.22, it is still dark in most buildings.
It’s always tricky to asses the morning weather conditions, the night before. Sometimes you’re disappointed; one of my expeditions was somewhat hampered by the rain this year. But well, those shiny pavements made up for that.
The blue hour
When does the blue hour begin? The experts don’t agree on this. It depends on the weather conditions, of course . And I suspect that in winter it lasts longer than in summer, because of the smaller angle between the orbit of the sun and the horizon. It’s a fact that during one of my expeditions, more than an hour before sunrise, the sky was not completely black anymore.
There’s a strange vibe in the city, early in the morning. Everyone is in a hurry to get to school or work on time. And as a photographer you don’t have time to lose either. The light changes by the minute. And before you know it, the street lights are suddenly switched off.
It’s beautiful, this blue hour, but of course you also hope for some dramatic skies at sunrise. To achieve that, there have to be clouds in the right numbers and in the right place. A thick cloud cover on the eastern horizon, as in the picture above, is a show-stopper. Only during my fourth morning expedition, on January 18, the conditions were perfect.
Here comes the sun
As far as I’m concerned, the moment just before sunrise is the most interesting. But when the sun appears above the horizon, or above the buildings that obstruct the view of the horizon, I won’t turn away, of course. There it is, above the floating forest.
Now that we’ve entered February, the sunrise slowly gets out of reach, with a speed of about two minutes a day. Time to shift the hunting hours back to the evening. But more about that later.